‘In every one of us there are two ruling and directing principles, whose guidance we follow, wherever they may lead; the one being an innate desire of pleasure; the other, an acquired judgment which aspires after excellence.’ ~ Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedrus First question of course is to ask if I am qualified to write about this issue. Let me tell you how I started and let you decide if you want to read beyond that account. I have been an entrepreneur, formally (in the sense of owning my own business) since 1994. I started business however while I was still in a regular full-time job (in 1983), with the full knowledge and blessing of my employer and paid for it by working on my business during my vacation and unpaid leave. I worked at learning and building a management consulting business for 12 years. I invested every available paisa (cent) on books and train fares (3rd class – a bare wooden plank for a seat) and every available day of vacation leave, interning with one trainer or another. I did not take a single day off in 12 years. Then in 1994 I started my own company (Yawar Baig & Associates www.yawarbaig.com ) in Bangalore with all of Rs. 3000 ($ 60) in my pocket and a dream in my heart, of becoming an internationally recognized leadership trainer with a global business. That in my view is typical of being an entrepreneur – to dream of things that never were and ask, “Why not?” This is 2013, 13 years after my first international assignment. Today I have a business with clients on three continents. It is this innate aspiration for excellence that I believe is at the root of all successful entrepreneurial activity. It is the desire to differentiate. To be different in a positive way. To stand out from the crowd; not to blend in with it. To express your identity in a unique way such that it is recognized and honored. That is the meaning of ‘Branding’. Without that you are a grain of rice in a sack. Excellence is to take responsibility not only for your own well-being but that of others. To lead others on the road which will not only help you to make your dream come true but to weave the dreams of others into the fabric so intrinsically that when they look out on the achievement of your vision, they will also see their own visions becoming reality. To leave behind a legacy by which you are remembered with affection and your passing regretted. Entrepreneurship is to always act with this consciousness about the long-term effects of our actions. To be willing to give an account, because we know that we will be held accountable. Entrepreneurship is all about spirit. It is recognizing that you did not come into this world either randomly by accident or by your own choice. Your parents did not choose for you to be born. I believe that we were sent and we were sent with a purpose. When we discover that purpose we enter a state of grace. A fish out of water is the most clumsy, awkward creature in the world. It can’t move, it flops desperately, it gasps for breath. But the same fish when you put it back into the lake disappears like a flash – the epitome of grace, speed and beauty. When we are in our appointed task we are like a fish in the water. The world conspires to help us to succeed. But first we must recognize our purpose and then we need to consciously accept it. That is the scary part. But that is the threshold that must be crossed to demonstrate that we are in and not out. Without crossing the threshold of owning responsibility for our own lives, we can’t expect anything to happen. We are never compelled to make one choice or another. But the doors that open, the vista that unfolds before our eyes and the road that beckons ahead all depend on the choice that we make. Behind each door is a different destiny. We get to choose which one we want to open and walk through into the world that it opens for us. Choices are not always easy. As a matter of fact, all the important ones are difficult. The most difficult thing is to choose between two apparently good alternatives. But the choice must be made. Everything else depends on that. We complain about difficulty. We forget that difficulties come to test us so that the prize can be given once we surmount the difficulty. Success goes to those who can overcome difficulties. Each difficulty resets the bar and creates a new definition of excellence without which we would have been lulled into a false sense of security which hides fatal flaws. Only winners get medals, remember? Those who fail are relegated to the garbage pile of the detritus of history. It is from this background that I have tried to conceptualize and share with you, what I like to call my tools to success. They are: I discovered the power of prayer. Of asking the One who has the power for His help. Prayer gave me (and continues to do so) a chance to have a private conversation and to ask Allah for what I needed. He knows what that is better than I do, but being able to ask and knowing that He listens and helps gives me the strength that I need. There is an enormous sense of peace in standing in the night in prayer after having done all that is in one’s power, asking for those decisions to be sent down without which all one’s effort will bear no fruit. I am aware of the same sense of communion that the farmer feels when he has tilled the land, made the furrows, spread the fertilizer, sowed the seeds and then looks towards the heavens and raises his hands asking for rain, without which all his effort will be in vain. Yet when he raises his hands, there is no fear in his heart, only hope. And there is a smile on his face. For he is looking for the clouds to come once again, bearing rain as they have done again and again in his life. So also, as I stand, I remember all the times that I have been guided, gently away from what I wanted, to what was good for me though I had not realized it at that time. I was aware that Allah knows, He cares and He has the power to do what it takes. I am content in the fact that I have done my part and made all the effort that I could. Now I stand to ask for His help, confident that He will do what is good for me, even if it means that in a given situation I will not get what I want. My life’s experience shows me that every time that happened I was given something better. Prayer gives me strength in the dark silence of the night which otherwise is the home of fear and confusion. 2. Discipline and Routine Anxiety creates disorder and disorder enhances fear. A vicious circle that debilitates energy and invites despair. So, the first thing to ensure is that you have a routine and to stick to it with dogged discipline. I had (and continue to have) fixed times to wake up, sleep, eat and for all major activities including reading, writing and the gym. A timetable creates order and predictability in a life that for the new entrepreneur, is suddenly devoid of the usual office routine. Working from home can create lack of discipline that masquerades as freedom. This is very dangerous. I used to dress for work, even though I was going into the next room to do it. Structure is the most powerful aid to fight anxiety. Adrenalin is the best natural energizer. And you get a lot of it on the treadmill provided you sweat enough. The gym is an absolutely fixed part of my day. I would go to the gym at mid-day because I was relatively free then. But on the days when I was teaching, I would go to the gym after work, which sometimes meant at 10 in the night. Nowadays, I spend an hour walking briskly and alone in the KBR Park in Hyderabad, which is a national forest. One thing for sure; I do not go to bed unless I had my daily adrenaline fix. Exercise is both a physical and psychological booster and I benefited hugely. Another thing, at least in my case, I think better when I am walking. So, when I have some complex problem to work on, I go for a walk. By the time I have walked a few miles, I would have worked it out and it becomes clear. Whatever be the physiological reasons for this, I know it works for me. Try it out. Walking out in the open in a forest, if you can manage it, is the best for the fresh oxygen you get and for the lovely variety of flowers, birds, insects and trees you get to see. Gym in comparison is boring, so I prefer the forest. The best thing about being poor is that you learn to prioritize. Prioritizing is not always painless. Sometimes it is very painful when you must choose against something you really would have loved to have. But you learn to choose based on what is important and what gives a return. You also learn to be very careful with what you have and to see how you can make your rupee/dollar do the most it can in more than one way. Waste becomes a synonym for death and re-cycling the norm. You learn to depend on other things than the brand of shirt or watch you wear as indicators of your status or worth. You learn to make all your resources count – sometimes several times before they are used up. You learn the importance of planning and information because it helps you to save. The mountain men of the American frontier were crack shots with the long rifle because they were very poor and had to learn how to make every bullet count. They simply could not afford a wasted shot. For my wife and I, when we lived in Bangalore from 1994-97, there were some months in the first year when I did not know if we would have enough money to pay the rent. But the Grace of God ensured that we never defaulted. My wife is a phenomenal manager of home finances and I have always had the good sense to stay out of it. Tight financial control, prioritizing and planning are all learnings; the benefits of hard times. This is a very tough one but in my view, it is the single most powerful differentiator – what do you invest in your own professional development? Talking of investing in learning without any guarantee that it will ever yield a return, when there isn’t enough money to put food on the table, sounds ridiculous. That is the reason many people subscribe to this thought in principle but do nothing about it in practice. That is a very expensive bargain. I would identify a training course that I wanted to take and then save up for it month by month. Then I would take the time off (which for the entrepreneur has a cost value) to take the course. I set myself a target that I would do at least one course every year, preferably a certification course. After some years, I ran out of certifications that I wanted to take but the annual course routine continues. The benefit of all this was that this strategy gave me a clear edge over my competitors which I never lost. My clients got used to seeing my resume change every year with additional certifications, papers, articles, books. Not that they necessarily gave me business in the new areas but the thought that they were hiring someone who was focused on his own development was a big differentiator in my favor when they were comparing consultants. Another thing which I did in this line of self development was to write and publish. Every year on an average I write more than 15 papers, 40-50 articles and every two years I publish a book. Writing is the single most powerful tool to develop thinking ability, which in my line is the soul of business. The ability to think clearly and strategically is always helpful no matter what business you are in, yet it is something that most people only do accidentally. Writing helps to structure thought, it forces you to express it in the clearest way and it helps you to put yourself in your reader’s mind. Writing also gives you credibility like nothing else. We have a respect for the written word and those who write and if you can write well (anyone can write well if they try) then you will find that you add value to yourself as well as to your image while clarifying issues in your own mind. Writing also gives you exposure in the best possible way and your name becomes known widely. Writing gives you both visibility and credibility; a big advantage. These are my tools. I hope they will help you as they helped me. If they do, pass them on. Lastly but by no means the least important is the skill of dealing with people. No matter how talented, powerful, resourceful, energetic, knowledgeable, sexy or beautiful you may be, you can’t and will never succeed without help. Help from people who see the fulfilment of their dreams in helping you. That in one line is your task as an entrepreneur or leader. How can you make them dream your dream as their own? It is not about explaining. But about helping them to link with your heart and see themselves in your dream. Only then will they own it, work for it, invest in it and help you to succeed. This is what every great leader in history did. As Nelson Mandela said, “Speak to their hearts, not to their minds.” As I say, “Show them what’s in it for them.”
Many entrepreneurs, especially technology experts believe that their technology supercedes everything. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the end, the success of technology depends on the success with which it is marketed. Stories abound about good technologies that never saw the light of day because their promoters didn’t have the people skills to take them to market. Entrepreneurs need people skills like fish need water. They need the skill to relate to different constituents of their environment in different ways. The way to relate to venture capitalists is not the same, as the way to relate to the techy team that is working on the project. The way to relate to your own business partners is not the same, as the way to relate to customers, especially for a product or service which is still untried. But all these are necessary and necessary simultaneously. Too often entrepreneurs forget this and think that their technical knowledge will see them through. It won’t. This is not to decry or discount the importance of technical knowledge and skill. But it is like imagining that to win the Indy 500 all you need is a fast car and driving skill doesn’t matter. You need a fast car alright. No amount of driving skill will enable a Maruti to beat a Ferrari. But without driving skill, you will never beat your competitor’s Ferrari because he is not driving a Maruti.
There are four main skills the entrepreneur needs to learn. Inspiration or motivation, presentation or communication, networking and conflict resolution. It is not in the scope of this article to go into them in detail. But in all of them there is an underlying theme which is to enable the other to see what is in it for them. All these skills need a high degree of engagement with others, be it the people who work for you, customers, potential funders, government officials (often the most difficult and non-productive engagement but must be done) and your own family and social circle. The fine line to walk is to help them to help you. To show them how working with you and for you will help them to achieve their own goals. This means that you must have a very good knowledge of what motivates them, what their issues are and have a genuine desire to help them. I say genuine because acting can’t be sustained. This is most visible in networking which many people believe is a way to use other people. It isn’t. It is an opportunity to build genuine bridges of mutual benefit which work for both parties. Only these last. The best networking people I know are genuinely helpful and look for opportunities to help others who they don’t need and in many cases, will never need. But their work gets noticed and gratitude is contagious. So, when they need someone, people come out of the woodwork for them. There is no substitute for sincerity and sincerity wins hearts.
One final word:I want to underline the importance of conceptualization. The reality of life is that raw experience teaches us nothing. What we do with it, is what matters. What we don’t conceptualize we don’t learn. Just being alive is not a condition for the acquisition of wisdom. It is how we live, what we do with what life presents to us, how we change ourselves and how we teach; these are what make us wise. But to do anything at all with raw experience we must take time out and go off into a quiet place physically and in our minds and reflect on what happened. We need to do that reflection objectively even mercilessly and ask the question, ‘So what did I learn?’ Sometimes the learning may be painful but it is the only way to avoid further pain. It is the only way to make amends and control any damage that our action or the lack of it may have caused. Sometimes in the process of conceptualizing one needs outside help; an objective listener who can give feedback and help to draw the lessons that we need to learn. It is only such learning which is useful and which can be related onward to others. But for all this we need to allocate time and as I said, develop the ability to go off into the quiet place in our mind. I have always been very conscious of the need for this and build this ‘time-out’ into my annual routine. I consider it an investment in myself and benefit from it hugely so I take it very seriously and don’t grudge the cost that is often involved. Now hold on a minute; reflection time does not always have to mean climbing mountains or secluding yourself in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. It can be done very adequately and at no cost on your daily commute, provided of course that you are not enslaved to your phone or iPod or whatever. Whatever else you do, you need to eliminate noise and invite silence if you want to achieve anything in this line. I am one of the most ‘connected’ people in the world and have always been keenly aware of the edge that connectivity gives you. Yet when I am away on these retreats, I shut down totally except for emergencies. I’ve worked very hard to be in touch with myself and to listen to my inner voice; to be at peace with myself without the need for some noise or the other constantly intruding into my mind. This ‘stillness’ is not to be confused with lethargy or boredom. This is the stillness of the hunting leopard which is crouched in the grass just before the final assault. She appears to be carved in stone. Not a muscle twitches; you can’t even see the rise and fall of her chest as she breathes. Her every sinew is taut to its maximum torque, waiting to be released in the explosion of speed that will catapult her onto her prey before it can properly register what’s happening. She is totally still, totally focused, totally aware of everything around her and everything inside her. This is the moment of highest awareness that one can get, the moment before the leap. That is stillness. One of the reasons why many people today can’t get past first base when it comes to conceptualizing is because they are unable to focus onto something long enough. It is supposed to be a characteristic of the present generation, ‘The Millennials’. I say, ‘Most welcome’, because it will be so easy to compete against people who can only give partial attention to anything. But for the world that is dangerous as it is distracting. Imagine being led into the new world by people who are only partially tuned in. I think people today are afraid to think and reflect and therefore seek refuge in endless activity. Without depth or breath of knowledge how can anything of value emerge? Strangely even the protests that we see today have no depth, no ideological underpinnings. They are like adolescents throwing tantrums because someone did not give them their toy. That is why they are easily satisfied with the immediate, even when it is abundantly clear that it is coming at the expense of their own future. Most young people read nothing or very little, other than their course syllabus. Almost nobody reads the classics. Almost nobody reads, writes or quotes poetry. Conversation is a badly linked chain of monosyllabic grunts, words which say something but are supposed to mean the opposite (very bad means very good, believe it or not) and an endless repetition of non-words to describe every conceivable situation and experience. Words reflect thought and depth of intellect. But for this generation a vocabulary of 50 words seems to do very well, thank you very much. It is as if all the enormous effort of human thought and civilization has been suspended in limbo perhaps to be read by those who come to pick up the pieces and then wonder how people who knew so much could have done this to themselves. Nothing that I know which is worth achieving can be achieved with partial attention. Excellence demands total attention and focus. It is impossible to think seriously and consider things in a structured framework seeking beneficial conclusions, if you have some noise-making instrument plugged into your ear all the time. This is the downside of technology today which is the trap that some of us fall into and are unable to control. So, our minds are taken over by the disc jockey, talk show host, news reader, social media updates and alerts, propaganda artist or advertiser to be molded at will and steered into channels of their choice, to think the thoughts they want us to think and come to the conclusions they want us to come to, irrespective of whether or not such conclusions benefit or harm us. As I mentioned, I think best in the open, in the middle of nature and when I am engaged in some physical activity, so I go trekking or to a wildlife sanctuary or mountain climbing where I spend part of the day in the activity and the rest in reflecting on my life, sitting beside a free standing, solar powered, self-propagating, shade giving, oxygen generator which we so easily chop down to make still more toilet paper. If you still did not recognize the description, try the word, ‘Tree’. In the nights, I read books that I take with me after careful consideration. I have always read two or three books simultaneously and enjoy holding their various themes in my head simultaneously. The mind, like the body, improves with exercise and considering different concepts, sometimes divergent ones is an excellent way to challenge yourself. Reading has always been and continues to be a significant and hugely beneficial activity in my life on which I spend substantial time, energy and money. This reflection is not a random activity leading to sleep. It is a structured pre-planned activity that I do as follows. Before I go off on these retreats, I ask myself some questions: 1. In the last period (since the last retreat) what were my best & worst experiences? 2. What are the lessons that I am hoping to learn from them? 3. What are the most difficult potential blocks to this learning that I can foresee? Then when I have finished my climb to the top of the hill, I pour myself a hot cup of tea and reflect on each incident/situation and jot down my thoughts as they occur. Once the thoughts have dried up I then read what I wrote and analyze to see what I can learn. All this needs discipline and practice but can be easily learnt and is a huge benefit. Especially to top it all is the fact that sitting on a hilltop watching the sun setting on the horizon, with a forest and all its sounds at your feet is just about the most enjoyable way that I know, of spending an afternoon. Question: Why is it happening? Why are women protesting the abolition of triple Talaq when it is something that they should welcome? Answer: Emotional knee jerk reactions born out of fear. You see the problem is that Modi and the Government have a very bad image, quite rightfully. So, anything that is seen as coming from them will immediately get rejected. Also, we have always had a high aversion to anyone who we consider an ‘Outsider’ saying anything about our law, more so about trying to change it. People must distinguish between two facts: Nobody can change a law that someone else made. But they can say that it will not be recognized in the land where they rule. That is essentially what the Supreme Court means when it says that it doesn’t recognize triple Talaq. It is not changing the law because within the Islamic Shari’ah it has no authority to do so. However, it is saying that it, as the Supreme Court of India, doesn’t recognize this law, will not follow it, will not rule in accordance with it, will reject it if a case comes before it and declare the divorce, so given, to be invalid. All this, the Supreme Court, is at full liberty to do. To illustrate, what do you think will happen if an American Muslim gives triple Talaq to his wife in America and she goes to court? The judge will rule that it is invalid. Will you say that American law has banned triple Talaq? They will do the same with Talaq Ahsan. With Nikah, with inheritance, with all Islamic laws as they don’t recognize them as valid in their land. So also in the case of the Supreme Court; what ‘not recognizing or banning’ means in effect is, that if a man gives his wife Talaq by pronouncing it thrice in the same sitting and she accepts it, there’s nothing more to be said. But if she goes to court, it will be overturned and not recognized. This is already happening. That is what I meant when I mentioned the Shamim Ara vs State of UP case of 2002. The Supreme Court declared the Talaq given in the past invalid. What was that Talaq? Triple Talaq. What the AIMPLB should have done is to implead itself and challenged this judgment. They didn’t do that. That remains to this day, 14 years later. Subsequently the courts have ruled according to this judgment multiple times and there is not a single instance where a court ruled that the triple Talaq given in one sitting was valid. That is also what is meant when they say that Supreme Court ‘banned’ triple Talaq. Banned means that the court has declared this law to be invalid in its sight – meaning that the court doesn’t accept it as a law. The court can’t go into every house to enforce it. But if a case comes before it, this is what it will rule. As I said, this is already happening and anyone who wants to test it, is welcome to go to court to see if it will protect the triple Talaq in one sitting. Muslim women are protecting the triple Talaq because in public they don’t want to look like they are criticizing Islam. I am with them in this respect. In public I also say, ‘Hands off’, to everyone else. However, what must happen in private is some education, which is lacking. Education about what marriage is, what Talaq is, about the rights of inheritance of women (brothers swallow their sisters’ rights and their wives – who are also women – support them). Education about treatment of women, about domestic violence and men oppressing women. Education about the Shari’ah itself that there are two parts to it – A Divine part and a Juristic part. Most people don’t understand this and think that everything in the Shari’ah is directly revealed in the Quran. It is not. Ijtihad has always played a very big role in the evolution of the Shari’ah. It is only in the last 150 years of so that the doors of Ijtihad have been shut. Don’t ask me why. That is incidentally where the so-called Ghair Muqallideen came from. When you shut the doors of Ijtihad, everyone becomes a Mufti. When those who have the knowledge and the responsibility to do Ijtihad refuse to do it (whatever be their reasons) then those who have neither the knowledge nor the authority, start to make rules. Whose fault, is it? When Muslims talk about reforms in the Shari’ah, nobody means that the Quranic or Divine part should be changed. If any Muslim says that, then they have denied the validity of the Qur’an and thereby they have left Islam. But the same sanctity doesn’t apply to the Juristic part. The Imams of Fiqh are not Allahﷻ or His Messengerﷺ. They are Ulama. Their service to the Ummah is unquestioned. And that service is that they did things which were essentially not present at the time of Rasoolullahﷺ to make the application of the Divine law current and easy for people. And they ruled on matters which were new and for which you can’t find answers in the Qur’an and Sunnah. While doing this naturally the basic rule is that the new ruling must not violate the Word of Allahﷻ or the Ruling of His Messengerﷺ. Imam Shafee codified the Usool of Fiqh and built his Fiqh and legal teachings on the foundations of the principles and methodology he expounded in his book Ar-Risalah. In his book, al Bahr al Muhit, al Zarkashi (d 794 AH) devoted a chapter to this, in which he said: “Al Imam al Shafi’i was the first to write about Usul al Fiqh. He wrote the Risalah, Ahkam al Qur’an (Legal Interpretations of the Qur’an), Ikhtilaf al Hadith (Conflicting Hadith), Ibtal al Istihsan (The Invalidity of Juristic Preference), Jima’ al ‘Ilm (The Congruence of Knowledge), and al Qiyas (Analogical Reasoning)-the book in which he discussed the error of the Mu’tazilah group, and changed his mind about accepting their testimony. Then, other scholars followed him in writing books on al Usul.” This is one of the greatest example of Ijtihad. Another is the classification of the Sunnah into Muakkadah and Ghair Muakkadah.
Imam Abu Hanifa introduced the term ‘Wajib’, differentiating it from Fardh. There are many other examples of Fiqhi terminology that didn’t exist at the time of the Sahaba but which today we accept unquestioningly. All these are examples of the very dynamic and healthy tradition of Ijtihad in Islam.
The Imams of Fiqh introduced terms like Makrooh and further, Makrooh Tahreemi wa Tanzeehi. The Sahaba would have looked at you in amazement if you mentioned Makrooh Tahreemi wa Tanzeehi to them. For them there was only Halal and Haraam. The concept that something can be prohibited yet not punishable in the same way, was foreign to them. Either something was permissible and you did it. Or it was not and you abstained. But that something was not ‘really’ permissible but you could still do it if you liked and you would not be punished in the same way as you would have been if it had been Haraam; would have been totally foreign to the Sahaba. The classic example of this is the difference of opinion about smoking between the Ulama of India and the Middle East. For the latter, it is Makrooh Tahreemi. For the former it is Haraam. However, cigarettes are not mentioned in the Quran or Sunnah. Interestingly while claiming that the doors of Ijtihad are shut, modern Ulama have chosen to make Ijtihad in some areas. For example, in ruling that women are not allowed in Masaajid. Today this is the standard ‘ruling’ of all Hanafi and Hanbali Ulama. However, Rasoolullahﷺ’s hadith in Bukhari states clearly, ‘Abdullah ibn Umar ® narrated from Rasoolullahﷺ who said, ‘Do not stop the women slaves of Allahﷻ from the Masaajid of Allahﷻ.’ In another narration Salim ibn Abdullah ibn Umar said, I heard Abdullah ibn Umar ® say, ‘I heard Rasoolullahﷺ say, ‘Do not stop your women from the Masaajid when they ask your permission to go there.’ His son (Abdullah ibn Umar®’s son) Bilal said to him, ‘By Allahﷻ we certainly will stop them.’ Abdullah ibn Umar ® turned towards him and cursed him in very bad language, I never heard him abusing anyone like that and then he said, ‘I am informing you of something from Rasoolullahﷺ and you say, ‘By Allahﷻ we certainly will stop them?’ In yet another narration also in Bukhari, Abdullah ibn Umar ® said, ‘Rasoolullahﷺ said, ‘Do not stop the women from going in the night to the Masaajid.’ There is plenty of evidence to show that women and children went to the masjid in the time of Rasoolullahﷺ and the Khulafa Rashida and that it was only much later that the prohibition was brought about. The Imams of the Zahiri school like Ibn Hazm and others have held that the command to establish Salah doesn’t differentiate between men and women and so both are obliged to pray and to pray in the masjid if that is possible. And that to go against the Hadith of Rasoolullahﷺ to allow women to go to the Masaajid, claiming that conditions had changed, was not permissible. It is later that others ruled based on various reasons they gave and the basis of a Hadith where Rasoolullahﷺ said, ‘It is preferable for women to pray at home’, that it is not permissible for women to pray in Masaajid. They did this despite the many Ahadith where Rasoolullahﷺ commanded that women must not be prevented from going to the Masaajid even though it is well known that a command supercedes a permission or preference. I will not go into the juristic arguments and justifications for these rulings or say anything about what is right or wrong, but I have quoted this to show that there is a difference between Divine command and juristic law. This means that the door of Ijtihad was wide open. So, what happened to that suddenly? That is the question in the minds of all thinking and reasoning Muslims and on the tongues of those with the courage to verbalize their thoughts. I am quoting this case as one which proves that Ijtihad was and is done to this day when it is seen as necessary. I submit that in the case of triple Talaq it is certainly necessary. The ruling that triple Talaq in one sitting is valid, is itself Ijtihad and it was done to help women and punish men. So, what is the problem with changing it and going back to the ruling in the Qur’an and Sunnah when we see that the very purpose of this ruling (to punish errant men) is no longer being achieved? What is the need to stick to a Bid’a (Talaq-e-Bidat) when we have a Sunnah (Talaq Ahsan) which we can and should follow? In short if our Fuqaha exercise their authority to make Ijtihad and re-look at the issue of triple Talaq, which is not a Divine ruling but a juristic (Fiqhi) one, the matter can be easily resolved. Imam Ibn Taymiyya did that and ruled against it already. Interestingly, as we speak, Hanafi Ulama send cases of triple Talaq to Ahle Hadith Ulama to be resolved knowing well that they will rule that the three Talaqs are equal to one and so the marriage is not dissolved. Yet they (Hanafi Ulama) will not adopt this ruling publicly. Even more amazingly Ahle Hadith Ulama have sided with the Hanafi Ulama of the AIMPLB in this case, thereby going against their own ruling which they follow. What that does to their credibility is something that only they are impervious to. None so blind as those who choose to blindfold themselves. Truly the ways of the ‘learned’ are wondrously mysterious. May Allahﷻ have mercy on us all. Triple Talaq as it is used in India is an oppression of women. The arguments which have been used in its favor make no sense at all and have made us the laughing stock of the nation. That the number of women affected by it are few or many makes no difference. A law must be just for everyone. People may ignore the law and be unjust and they will then be culpable. But if the law is itself unjust, then you can’t fault people for what happens. Triple Talaq in one sitting goes against the Ayaat of the Qur’an and the rulings of Rasoolullahﷺ. We need to rule according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Whatever happened in the past which led to triple Talaq being recognized (we are all aware of the historical issues) was valid then in the circumstances of 7th century Arabia. Its purpose was to help women and punish errant men, as I have mentioned earlier. This is not happening in India any longer so that very purpose (Maqsad) of the Ijtihad is not being fulfilled. To treat triple Talaq as one or to remove it altogether will once again fulfill the purpose of the ruling which was to protect women from being exploited. It is the duty of our Ulama to consider this seriously and act. Only Divine law is valid for all times and places. Juristic law is changeable and came into being because change is permissible. If juristic law is not working in a place and instead of protecting the very people it was designed to protect, has become the means of their oppression; then it must be changed. It is our Ulama who must change it. Nobody else has that authority. I hope we can persuade our Ulama to do what they also know they must do. It is shameful for us as Muslims in India that a secular body like the Supreme Court needs to intervene to force us Muslims follow the law of our own religion. We are free to choose but every choice has a price.
We seem to be living in times when some people appear to be bent on challenging this law of nature – that fire burns and the result is always ash.
The way people handle catastrophic news is as follows: Shock > Grief > Anger > Hope > Faith If, this cycle is interrupted, then a new ending happens. The new cycle becomes: Shock > Grief > Anger > Hope > Despair Beware the man who feels he has nothing to lose. Crime can be prevented. Crime must be prevented. As they say, ‘prevention is better than cure’. In the case of crime this is even more important because like the case in point above, nothing that can be done now will ever restore the lives of those who were murdered for no reason other than they belonged to a particular religious group. I didn’t put it like that because I am reluctant to use the word ‘Muslim’, but because Muslims are not the only ones at the receiving end. We had Sikhs killed in their hundreds (maybe thousands) when Indira Gandhi was assassinated and Congress was in power. They still await justice. We have Dalits who have been killed for decades and nobody even talks about justice for them. We had churches burnt, priests and nuns killed, one burnt alive in his car with his two little children. They still await justice. We had Muslims who were killed all over Gujarat in 2002 (one among hundreds of so-called riots all over India). We had two terms of Congress government rule thereafter but the victims still await justice. What I am trying to say is that what is happening in India today in the name of ‘cow vigilantism’ or extremism, is not new. Neither can the responsibility of it be laid at the door of the BJP alone. It is true that it is BJP in power today and so we look to them to ensure that justice is done and good governance is not sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. But that was and will always be our expectation from any government in power. Governments are supposed to govern. When they don’t, the country loses. Not any individual or group, but the whole nation. Where the loss is likely to be irreplaceable, it is even more important to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the first place.
This is why a strong system of crime investigation, community participation and swift justice plays a very powerful role in keeping the victims from the brink of despair. As long as people know that they have a viable alternative for redress of wrong, they will take that option every single time. But when they begin to see from experience after experience, that criminals always get away, crimes go unpunished, there is no hope for justice, compensation or retribution, then they fall into despair. Take the latest breaking news about the killers of Pehlu Khan, the dairy farmer who was slaughtered while he was legally, legitimately and justifiably transporting cows to his dairy farm.
I have no comments to make as I didn’t handle the investigation. All I can say is that Pehlu Khan didn’t commit suicide or drop dead on his own. He was killed. Before he died, he recognized and named his killers. So, if they are not guilty, who is? That is what the police and the State are supposed to find out and bring to book. If Pehlu Khan’s case was a Pehli-bar, then one wouldn’t be so concerned. But this is like a broken record, or a bad penny (choose your own proverb), it seems to happen every time. I can name incident after incident but don’t want to waste space here or your time. You know all the incidents that have happened. All with the same ending, nobody is guilty of the crime. Today there is a lot of justifiable concern to prevent radicalization of youth. What is needed is a frank assessment of what leads to radicalization and acceptance of the fact that it is lack of law enforcement and swift justice that leads to people falling into despair. That is a downward spiral that has only one end.
India is a land of contradictions. The only constant is diversity which we tolerate only by force. However, we are very comfortable living with complete contradictions as we live in compartments in our minds. Let me give you some examples: In India, we worship the woman – as a goddess – of everything from wealth, to fertility to knowledge to music to power. But have no problems demanding dowry from the bride for the favor of marrying her and then burning her alive (or murdering her in other ways) if the dowry is not enough or if we simply decide later that we want more. Incidentally this is an Indian issue, not a Hindu one. Muslims for whom taking dowry is Haraam, do so under different pretexts, trying to deceive God and man. But they deceive nobody except themselves.
Of late, rape has become a national pastime with our august politicians saying in effect, ‘Boys will be boys. Girls must not provoke them by dressing immodestly.’ Another said, ‘It is the effect of eating a lot of noodles.’ He was from Haryana where evidently, they eat a lot of noodles. Muslims like to proclaim loudly for all those who care to listen that Islam treats women and men equally and gives rights to women that they don’t have in many modern countries to this day. But they remain silent on the fact that Islam gives women these rights but Muslim men don’t. So, Muslim women continue to be deprived of what their religion guarantees them.
Take food, which today has literally become a matter of life and death in our country. Beef is the main course in Kerala, Goa, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya (all Hindu majority states) and prohibited, banned, proscribed, Haraam in Kashmir (Muslim dominated state). But in UP, MP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, if you say the word ‘beef’ without due respect, as determined by the Gau Rakshak (Cow Protector) who hears you, you will be summarily slaughtered without any problem or inconvenience to the slaughterers. Never mind that nobody in their right minds slaughters milch cows or buffaloes. It is bulls, male calves, or old cows which have run dry and are past yielding age which are slaughtered. That is an economic need of the farmer who can’t afford to keep and feed them, so he sells them. Anyway, none of these logical arguments makes any sense. Nor does the fact that despite the fact that Gau Rakshaks rule the roost, India continues to be the largest exporter of beef to the world. How that is possible in a country where even if you talk about killing a cow, you will pay for that with your life, is, like the Indian Rope Trick and the Water of Ganges magician’s tricks, an enduring mystery.
We worship snakes but slaughter the first one we see. We talk about Vasudev Kudumbakam (whole world is one family) but protect, uphold and propagate the caste system. We have Lord Aiyappa on his hilltop residence to visit whom you must necessarily, by his order, first pay respects to his Muslim friend, Vavar Swamy (resemblance to my name is accidental), whose temple (why a temple to a Muslim?) is at the foot of the hill. Millions do it, but it is Open Season on Muslims all over.
I can go on endlessly but I won’t. Why is this important? Because it shows up in attitudes in the workplace, society and politics. The ability to hold two opposing ideas simultaneously in the mind is a sign of intelligence. The ability to hold two opposing values simultaneously in the heart is a sign of hypocrisy. In this we are very skilled and entirely at ease.
The question is, where will this lead us. It is a rhetorical question to which I am sure we all know the answer.
Terror is fire.
Fire always burns.
And the result is always ash.
Gauri Lankesh was executed. What else do you call a bullet in the forehead? We know why. The question to those who did it and those with whose support they did it is, ‘Now what?’
The problem with using ‘ultimate’ strategies is that when they fail, you have nothing left. Ultimate strategies also indicate another fatal flaw, that you are desperate. Nothing is working. So, you try the last weapon in your arsenal, the most powerful which came with a warranty to destroy all in its path. You fire it. You wait. The explosion fades. The smoke blows away. The dust settles. But just as you are about to heave a sigh of relief, you hear a voice, then another, then another; just like the one you tried to silence. And you stand there, smoking gun in hand, empty magazine, wondering, ‘Now what?’
Sad to say this is not new. According to CPJ 41 journalists have been killed in India since 1992. https://cpj.org/asia/india/ As a culture we are not tolerant and benevolent as our PR likes to portray us, but are highly intolerant and vicious and brook no dissent to the dominant narrative.
Hegel said, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” If only we read and try to learn from history. But then those who killed Gauri and those who are engaged in manufacturing fake news or earning their living as internet trolls can hardly be blamed for reading. History is replete with incidents of attempts to muzzle the voices of truth and justice. Anyone who reads history can only come to one simple conclusion, that ideas must be responded to by ideas. Arguments must be met with counter arguments based on facts and logic. Not by shouting, screaming, accusations, threats or bullets. But as I quoted Hegel, ‘We learn from history that we do not learn from history.’ That is why another quote which is attributed to so many people that I place it before you, crediting all those who may have said it, ‘Nations that don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’ The purpose of all such attempts at intimidation, be it the tirade against Hamid Ansari or Amir Khan or the final step of the murder of Gauri Lankesh, is to create such an atmosphere of fear that people will censor themselves. Make such an example of those who refuse to be intimidated that the rest of them will learn a lesson. What those who propound that theory fail to ask is the final question, ‘What lesson will they learn?’ Take the situation today in this country. We had a nation which was quoted in the world in terms of its economic growth and its glowing future. Admitted we had our flaws, don’t we all? But we could stand in the middle of the chowraha (traffic intersection) and criticize the government without any fear of reprisal. Our Prime Minister was a scholar in his own right, an economist, a teacher and a man respected worldwide. Yet we could call him Maun Mohan Singh referring to his famous refusal to speak on different occasions without the fear of his devotees jumping down our throats. Freedom was the key word in our country, including the freedom to urinate in public, but that is another matter. Today that is the only freedom that seems to have remained if I am to go by a video that someone sent me of someone relieving himself in the Delhi Metro. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m244-kV_h8A Today however, we have a situation where a young boy is murdered in a train filled by people including police officers and when the crime is sought to be investigated, there are no witnesses. We have the father of an Air Force Officer, murdered on suspicion that he had beef in his fridge. We have a man slaughtered in broad daylight for transporting a cow for his dairy business when he had all the relevant permissions to do so. We even have officials of one state (Tamilnadu) officially deputed to transport cattle, assaulted and injured for doing their duty. We have a young man in Pune, lynched because he was wearing a cap. The instances of public lynching by what are called Cow Vigilantes are so many now that listing them is not possible here. The instances of online intimidation and abuse are myriad and instantaneous. What is remarkable and should be remarked on is not the incidents but the fact that they all go unpunished. No government can prevent crime totally. But any government worth the name must investigate it and bring the culprits to book. That is what a government is for. It is for governing. Not to dictate what people must eat, how they must dress, what they must and must not speak, who or what they should worship, but to govern the country in a way that citizens are safe. The government is not responsible for the incident but for what happens or fails to happen thereafter. That is what a government exists for. When crime goes unpunished, it spawns more crime. But of course, if the definition of crime is changed, then a crime is no longer a crime and the government is free from blame. Safety and terror are both buzzwords today which are guaranteed to get attention. The problem is that today safety seems to be guaranteed for those who spread terror. While those who are being terrorized are not even allowed the freedom to mention it, no matter how mildly. Ask Hamid Ansari. Will the murderers of Gauri Lankesh be apprehended and hanged? Will the murderers of Akhlaaq, Hafiz Junaid, Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh and dozens of others be similarly brought to book? Will I stop asking stupid questions? When this government came to power in 2014, it did that on the promise of economic development. As the country with the largest number of people in abject poverty in the world, it is economic development that we need like a blood transfusion. That is why we elected this government. But what did we get instead? Demonetization which destroyed thousands of livelihoods, impoverished those living on the brink, sank SME’s which are the backbone of society, wiped out the savings of the poor and did nothing to the black money and terror funding that it allegedly was aimed at. Anyone who knows anything about economics could have predicted this and many did. But this ‘surgical strike’ (not my coinage) on the economy was done with such swiftness that predictions had no meaning. Then came the implementation of GST. Another body blow to the economy that took down those left standing after demonetization. An initiative with noble intentions but the way it was done was to create confusion and despair albeit giving rise to a completely new multi-crore business of GST Advisors. What we were promised was development, Sab ka Saath Sab ka Vikas. What we got instead was apartheid, oppression and for those who dared to raise their voice, intimidation and murder. What we were promised was Ache Din. What we are now promised is New India. What we were promised was elimination of black money, bringing back money from Swiss bank accounts and depositing money into the accounts of all Indians. What we are now promised is Cashless India. What we were promised was development for all Indians. What we are now promised is…. Well, as Hegel said, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” My question to myself and you is, “Do you want to prove him right or wrong?”